Bam Aquino's reelection loss: A case of miscalculation?

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Senator Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV lost his reelection bid in a contest where no opposition candidate secured the 12 available slots.

Aquino placed only 14th, with 14,144,923 votes.

Another prominent senatorial bet of the Liberal Party-led Otso Diretso slate, former senator Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, also lost, placing only 16th with 9,843,288 votes.

In preelection surveys, Aquino had ranked anywhere from 9th to 13th, for a time giving his supporters hope that he would make it.

Misstep in strategy?

Of the 8 Otso Diretso candidates, Aquino and Roxas hit President Rodrigo Duterte the least in their campaign messaging, whereas the 6 lesser-known candidates continually criticized Duterte policies every chance they got.

Aquino's style, however, was focused on free education, having co-authored the free tuition law.

Aquino also  reminded voters that he was among the senators who fiercely fought the the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, from the very beginning. The TRAIN law has since been blamed for record-high inflation rates.

Political science professor Gene Pilapil said that this strategy failed to take into account that by 2019 Duterte would have already recovered from the TRAIN law effect, and bounced back to his personal-high satisfaction rating.

"Bam Aquino ran on an anti-TRAIN law platform, and Mar Roxas presented himself as the economist. This strategy would have worked in 2018, but in 2019 we have a different ball game because of the phenomenon of the recovery of the satisfaction rating of President Duterte," Pilapil said in a Rappler Talk interview.

In April, a month before the elections, the Social Weather Stations reported that 79% of Filipinos are satisfied with Duterte's performance, a personal-high satisfaction rating for the President last seen in June 2017.

"In terms of the effect of the TRAIN law, the country has basically moved on," said Pilapil, citing the satisfaction ratings.

Pilapil said Aquino's and even Roxas' drop from the Magic 12 was "largely because President Duterte has been very lucky because we are conducting the elections at the height of his popularity."

Wiped out

With no winner from any opposition group, the minority bloc in the Senate for the 18th Congress will be cut to only 4: Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros, and Leila de Lima.

This is the worst election performance of the opposition since 1938 when Manuel L. Quezon's Nacionalista Party took all 98 seats in the national assembly, with zero seats going to the opposition.

In 1967, only two years after Ferdinand Marcos won the presidency, the opposition was almost wiped out, but at least one opposition member won.

Coincidentally, that opposition member was Aquino's uncle, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.

In an emailed statement, Aquino said: "Hindi man tayo pinalad na makakuha ng pangalawang termino, hindi mauubos ang pagmamahal ko sa ating mga kababayan at kagustuhang manilbihan sa kapwa, bagkus sa ibang larangan naman.

"Napakalaking karangalan ang manilbihan sa taumbayan kaya’t lubus-lubos ang pasasalamat ko sa mga nakatrabaho at sumuporta sa akin sa loob ng anim na taon at sa mga walang pagod na nangampanya nitong nakaraang mga buwan.

"Bago pa man ang araw ng eleksyon, ipinaubaya ko na sa Diyos ang resulta. At buo pa rin ang tiwala ko sa Kanyang plano para sa akin at higit sa lahat, para sa ating Bayan."

(Though we were not lucky enough to get a second term, my love for my countrymen at my willingness to serve them will not diminish, albeit in a different capacity.

It was an honor to serve the people, thus I am overflowing with gratitude to those whom I have worked with and those who supported me in my 6 years, as well as those who tirelessly campaigned in the past months.

For me, even before the day of elections, I was prepared to accept the will of God. My faith in the Almighty remains steadfast in His plans for me, and most specially, for our country.)  – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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